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Julia Sims: When doors shut

Posted March 10, 2015

Julia Sims with son Will

My college is closing. You may wonder what this has to do with being a mom or what this has to do with being a mom of a little boy. Bear with me, because, for me, it has everything to do with it.

My husband went to N.C. State and my son is all about anything Wolfpack red. When Will asked about Sweet Briar College, where I went, he wanted to know the school colors.

I told him pink and green and, of course, he laughed. Then I explained that even though that sounded "girly," it was anything but. I told him girls can wear pink and green and be tough as nails. We talked about girl power and the fact you never ever underestimate a woman ... or the girl sitting at the desk beside you in school.

I told Will that when I went to college, I knew I was the type of person prone to socializing and easily distracted. For me, a big university would've been a distraction. Instead, I chose to learn in a small classroom environment. At Sweet Briar, I found my voice and my courage.

My little boy has always been impressed that my dad, Pops, was a soldier. Will is equally impressed that I covered the war on terror as an embed reporter. I told him that was a result of the confidence, courage and communication skills I learned at Sweet Briar. Nothing "girly" about that.

Sweet Briar College is a small liberal arts women's college nestled in the foothills of southern Virginia. (It was also one of the first women's college to start an engineering degree). Many small liberal arts colleges across the country are succumbing to the same fate. They say financial pressures are mounting and interest in liberal arts is dwindling.

I believe there is a place for everything, particularly liberal arts. Consider this:

  • For a number of years, I worked for a Fortune 500 company at a nuclear power plant. I was the media spokesperson and communication specialist. I worked alongside mind-boggling brilliant engineers. They could write detailed papers about nuclear fission, but many couldn't clearly convey those ideas to the general public or a room full of employees. I could.
  • The city of Raleigh is currently searching for a communications director. The city manager told council members it's a critical role. It is.
  • The city also is embarking on a 10-year master plan for arts and culture. Arts translates to increased economic impact for any city. The mayor believes a thriving arts culture is crucial for the city's success. It is.

I want Will to grow up knowing the value of a liberal arts education, understanding women are equally strong and having the choice of deciding what kind of college, if any, he'd like to attend.

My husband suggested taking Will to Sweet Briar before it closes later this year. My heart swelled when I heard that.

So, I plan to show my little boy the place where I grew up, the place where I learned I can do whatever I set my mind to, the place that made me who I am: a wife, a mom and a journalist. My college is closing and it breaks my heart.

Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a grade schooler. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.

4 Comments

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  • Kimberly Jeans Mar 15, 2015
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    Thank you, Julia. You have no idea the tears that this brought to my eyes. As a Peace College alumna ('04,'06), the issues at Sweet Briar are ever present on my heart. Women's Colleges are important places and liberal arts institutions are more valuable now than ever. The women of Peace and all women's college graduates stand with the women of Sweet Briar. We are all fighting the same fight. #SaveSweetBriar #SaveWomensEducation

  • Heidi Walker Mar 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Julia, I attended what used to be Randolph-Macon Woman's College and is now co-ed Randolph College. I completely agree with you about the value of a liberal arts education. I think that politicians and other business elders have been extremely irresponsible when they have criticized liberal arts. Michael Bloomberg, who I used to work for, being one of those people. They need to understand that their words hold sway and have swayed public opinion about a liberal arts education at a time when employers want the skills that you get - including being able to write, critical thinking an making connections between seemingly disparate subjects. In fact Goldman Sachs hires primarily graduates with degrees in the field of liberal arts. I was saddened to hear the news about Sweet Briar and I am praying that the actions currently being taken by alums and students to save the school will be successful. Thank you for sharing your story. To sisterhood!

  • Molly Phemister Mar 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Julia, thank you for articulating the value of liberal arts majors. A broad education has been an amazing asset in my life. From here on out, though, PLEASE stop assuming we're closing. Closing is the dumbest option possible. This is crazy cakes. STOP the negative assumptionist talk. START assuming: this president is leaving, this board is resigning, we're getting a new director of admissions, we're getting a new path forward, we're reinvigorating the alumnae who are becoming amazing fund raisers and ambassadors, we're revamping how the board is even selected, we're taking advantage of our assets, we're figuring out how to raise 70-90% of the food consumed on campus from the campus, we're attracting a broad range of students who are excited about being in this setting and taking advantage of what we offer, we offering outstanding summer programs to introduce students and teachers to the landscape and charms of our college, we're expanding where we excel. THIS CAN WORK.

  • Elizabeth Baker Mar 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Holla, Holla Julia! So glad to see you the other night and THANK YOU for writing this. You are spot on about the need for liberal arts majors. Thank you for your voice to #savesweetbriar!